What’s On Your Doorstep?

Travelling is sometimes a dream, a list of places I wish to visit before I am too old. But sometimes, especially on snowy days like today, I think about how lucky I am to live somewhere that actually has some lovely sights to explore.

As I sit here listening to my son begging to go outdoors and play in the snow, I started to think about a time when I’d be eager to get outside to just simply be outside. So, once I have written this post I will grab my warm boots, hat and gloves and take to the snow.

It’s not just the snow that makes me want to be outdoors but the sun too, and occasionally the rain. Near my home is a park that I think many locals take for granted. The park is big has a wood, stream, pond, swings, visitors centre and a lot of wildlife. Local schools visit and discover the natural habitats of badgers and foxes but when it comes to taking a walk for some reason we choose to head to the shops.

This weekend I will be taking my son to the park and exploring some of the places it has to offer. This isn’t the only area on my doorstep, when I take the time to stop and think about it there are several of places we could go.

Just a half an hour drive away is a beach, many complain “it’s not the best beach”, but who cares it’s there. This summer the aim is to take to the beach after work for fish and chips, or a picnic because we should be making the most of this area.

On rainy days, for some crazy reason I like to go for a walk and the mountains that wall the county I live in are perfect for this. Although, if it is windy it’s probably best to stick to a park or garden but if it’s just rain, well that never hurt anyone.

It may seem ridiculous that a plan has to be in place to visit these places, but these days it’s far too easy to stay indoors.

Domestic tourism is just as good as outbound, we just take it for granted sometimes or focus on the things we can’t do or can’t afford. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of caravan holidays at Greenacres, Black Rock Sands, Porthmadog. Located an hour and a half from my home and located on the Llyn Peninsula this area of North Wales has a lot to offer.

The beaches here are beautiful and the towns full of heritage, myths, and legends. It is a great part of the world to explore but is often lost by the idea of an exotic beach break. Of course, the chance of sun is touch and go, but if you’re lucky enough to get some it’s an ideal location.

Diverse Australia: Something for Everyone

It doesn’t get much better than a trip to Australia! The Land Down Under has long been a magnet for people from the UK, and with good reason. They have awesome beaches and weather, and a population that we can kind of think of as cousins. And of course, there are just about one million and one things to do while you’re there. Indeed, this might just be the best quality about Australia: it’s endlessly diverse, allowing visitors to do anything and everything that they enjoy. Below, we take a look at a few of the different type of adventures that await you on your trip.

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In the City

Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane: three cities that are oh so different from one another, but all equally fascinating. While the majority of Australia might be empty space, the country really comes to life in the cities. There’s a famously laid-back atmosphere, and plenty of museums, art galleries, and shops to be explored, too. But perhaps the best thing about the cities is that they’re so picturesque. When the weather is sunny (which is basically always), there’s nothing really better than going for a stroll and soaking up all the good vibes that the cities bring.

To the Beach

The beaches are rightfully one of the biggest draws when it comes to Australian tourism. There are so many, and they’re so beautiful! Many feel like you’ve just stumbled upon heaven on earth. And they’re not just pretty, either: they’re fun. You can try your hand at surfing, and in some places put on snorkeling gear and explore the magic of life under the water. If you prefer to stay dry you can take a trip on a boat, like those offered at https://www.sailfree.com.au/Australia/Sunshine+Coast/. Whatever you do while you’re at the beaches, they’re sure to be a highlight of your trip!

The Mountains

Australia isn’t all cool cities and amazing beaches; it’s always an outdoor mecca, with plenty of stunning national parks and other areas that are perfect for hiking, cycling, camping and more. Perhaps the most famous of all is Kakadu National Park, which is located in the country’s Northern Territory. It’s massive, so you’ll want to plan your trip there to make sure that you see everything that you want to see!

Cruising

Australia is one of the biggest countries on earth, but it has a population around a third of the UK. That means one thing: it’s a great road trip country! Renting a car and going for a cruise, especially along, say, the Great Ocean Road, should be high on the to-do list of everyone with a driver’s license.

The Sweet Life

Of course, there’s also another option: just relaxing! Australia is a relaxed place, and even if you’re doing nothing other than sitting back and enjoying a BBQ, then you can still consider the day a success. So don’t over plan your schedule: you’ll want to relax and see what life in Australia is all about!

A Truly Luxury Getaway

Everyone has different perceptions of luxury and generally this is judged by price. However, this can be misleading, just because something costs more doesn’t necessarily mean it is better. Let’s talk luxury…

I love to treat myself and when I travel this is of high importance. At this point in my life, I can’t afford to experience the high-end luxury, although I have (for free) as part of past jobs and it made me want to live it more and more. Now I try to find luxury whenever I travel and with websites such as Airbnb this has become simpler than ever. Okay, this may not be fully serviced luxury but the stories and experiences make for amazing conversations.

Travelling in High-End Luxury

Starting at the top of the scale we have places like Cap Ferrat and Monaco which as we all know are about as luxurious as it can get. These places can be visited and experienced on a low budget but it’s where you choose to stay and the things you do that can really make the difference.

Many of the properties here (high-end property) will be rented during the summer for a month at a time or for the whole summer period. During this time there are a few things a truly luxurious experience requires, these include; a chef and cook, housekeeper, maid service, hostess, chauffeur, gardener, and travel expert. Many of these people will be in with the price, although on occasion may be extra.

High-end luxury isn’t just about the services but the facilities too, your rental home may have a wine cellar, cinema room, library, private pool, en-suite, and on occasion hidden passageways for all staff. This last one can be strange if you have never experienced it before for example once I went to the toilet and 2 minutes later realised I had left my phone when I went back for it the toilet paper had been folded into a point and the toilet cleaned! I personally find this creepy and can’t understand why anyone would need this when on holiday.

Affordable Luxury

In my experience, it is possible to have a luxury holiday on a budget you just have to read reviews and spend a little more time researching your property. Firstly, you need to know what luxury means to you. For me I view luxury in three key steps:

  1. Where is the property located? Do I want to be near a beach, overlooking a beach, in the countryside with a panoramic view or in the hustle and bustle of the city? Each one of these locations will mean very different things, for example, ‘luxury’ on a beach holiday means private pool or residential small cove. When in the countryside I’d be looking for a balcony or large windows offering views to the outdoors.
  2. How often is it cleaned? A holiday to me means no cleaning, I do this every day at home so if I have to clean I am not happy. Obviously, I do believe in maintaining a tidy environment, no one should have to clean up a disgusting mess, in fact when I travel you’d barely know I was there. Still, the bedding should be changed regularly (I only like white sheets) and the toilet cleaned daily. This is something that I check before choosing my place to stay.
  3. Will I meet the owners? Sometimes luxury experiences can be about the people you meet just as much as the accommodation or attractions you visit. In the past, I have stayed on the grounds of a large manor where I was greeted with a warm welcome and insight to the local area.

All travel experiences make for interesting stories, the good and the bad, whether luxurious or not. But, what interests me is people’s perception of luxury because now I have experienced the higher end I realise that it’s not necessarily what I would want.

Why Visit Monaco? Even on a budget

I have had the opportunity to travel to Monaco on two occasions and each time I have seen something different and fall in love all over again. Upon hearing this you may be lead to believe I actually have a lot of money, but I actually just research and prepare well before travelling.

One of my pet peeves is the assumption that you have to be financially well off to even enter the region. Of course, this is true if you plan on spending an entire week living in luxury or you’re purchasing a property. But just visiting for a day or two does not have to break the bank.

Getting to Monaco

Firstly, travelling to Monaco is relatively affordable, flying to Nice from LPL or MAN you can catch a flight for as little as £70, depending on when you plan to fly.  Like anywhere once you land there are the transfers to consider, which can be pricey if you want a helicopter or private car but there are thrifty ways to travel.

If you are a light traveller you may choose to take the train, this can take up to an hour but is significantly cheaper than a private transfer. There is also an airport bus – the Airport Express 110, with prices to Monaco starting from 22EUROS. Alternatively, try the regular bus service, bus 100 will take you to Monaco for €1.50.

As we don’t get away as much as we’d like we went all out and got a private transfer, not quite a helicopter, but it was sufficient. When we got to Monaco we were dropped off outside our hotel and were shocked by the cleanliness and service we received for what was a relatively cheap place in comparison to many other hotels in the region. Which brings us on to the next point, the accommodation.

Where to Stay

If you want to stay in Monaco then you will expect to pay a little more than other areas, such as Nice or Cap d’Antibes, or if you want to be further afield, Fayence in the Provence-Alpes Cote d’Azur region. The good news is that Monaco is accessible from all of these locations, you may have to travel for a couple of hours but if you are planning a weeks stay then two days out in Monaco can definitely be achieved.

When looking for budget accommodation stay clear of St Jean Cap Ferrat, Villefranche and St Tropez (although the last one is quite far out anyway).

During our visit’s we have stayed in Monaco and Fayence. Monaco when visiting for a weekend and further afield when staying for a whole week.  The cost of our accommodation for two nights in Monaco was £300 and for one week in Fayence £450. It really depends on what you plan to do there and how much you are willing to pay. I know, £150 a night seems steep but for this part of the world it is pretty good, there were other options that start from around £50 per night for a double room, these can be found on comparison sites such as Trivago. Again, the prices really do depend on the time of year.

When choosing your accommodation it may not only be the price that influences your final decision but the location of the rental too. Which brings us to the next point – where will you be visiting?

What to See

There’s the obvious Monte Carlo as a starting point – the pinnacle of wealth and the area you will find luxury cars, think Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, and Ferrari. The Hotel Metropole is located in this area too, near which is the Metropole shopping centre with some very boutique and glamorous shops. Upon entering the shopping area you are welcomed by a large chandelier and everything oozes wealth.

The harbour at Monte Carlo is lovely to see, especially during award season and the Grand Prix. We were lucky enough to visit just after the Grand Prix and saw the road markings and some of the yachts were still there. To see the superyachts it may be worth a visit to Cannes during the film festival, this is due to the dock in Monaco.

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As well as wealth and shopping there’s also much more to see including the Oceanographic Museum. The building itself is remarkable, placed on the edge of a cliff its location is perfect for its content. In the museum, you can take a look at more than 6,000 specimens in reconstructed habitats.

A visit to the Prince’s Palace is a fine experience open from March to October in 2018 you can visit for €11.50 per adult and €5 per child (aged 6-16). Although, the Princes Palace is the residence of the ruling Prince certain areas are open to the public. You can explore the State Apartments, with high painted ceiling’s and large chandeliers the rooms are remarkable. The original fortress was built in 1215 by the Genoese and the history of the palace is apparent when walking around.

These are the only places I have had the chance to visit at the moment but I would love to go back and take a walk around the many gardens, mainly; Princess Antoinette Park, Zoological Gardens and The Exotic Gardens and the Observation Cave.

This is definitely one of my favourite places and I look forward to returning one day soon.

Best British Locations For A Cheap Weekend Break

It would be great if we could travel all the time but most people just don’t have the money for that (unfortunately I don’t). It’s also difficult to find the time when you’ve got a busy family life. But just because expensive holidays abroad are outside your means, that doesn’t mean you can’t go away.

There are plenty of great places right here at home that are perfect for a weekend getaway. These are some of the best British locations for a weekend break that won’t break the bank.

Oxford

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Oxford is a city best known for its university but there’s plenty more to see. The university itself is full of beautiful architecture and rich history to explore before heading to one of the many great restaurants and bars that the city has to offer. There’s also a great cultural scene including the Sheldonian Theatre and the Bodleian Library. You can also take a romantic stroll along the picturesque riverside.

London

London

Most people don’t think of London when they’re looking at places to go for a weekend break because they think they’ve seen it all before. But the typical tourist attractions are only a tiny part of what the capital city has to offer. Visit www.vlondoncity.co.uk to find out about some of the other things you can find in London. If you just head outside of the centre a little way, you’ll find a completely different London to the one you thought you knew. It’s such a big and varied city that you can visit time and time again and still find something new.

Brighton

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If it’s a beach holiday you’re after, you don’t have to spend loads of money on a trip to Spain or Florida, there are plenty of amazing beaches right here at home. Brighton is a vibrant beach town that’s just as good as anywhere abroad if the weather is right. The traditional beach hotels along the front have a certain nostalgia about them that will bring you back to childhoods spent at the beach. But since then, it’s become a modern city full of great art and a bustling shopping district. There’s also a brilliant historic quarter that has been well-preserved and is great for a lazy afternoon stroll.

Matlock

geograph-2956834-by-Neil-TheasbyImage Source: Matlock Bath from Jubilee Bridge

Sometimes, you just want to get away from all of the hustle and bustle of modern life and go somewhere with a much slower pace of life. Matlock, in the Peak District, is ideal for this. When you arrive, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. The quaint village atmosphere is filled with traditional pubs, restaurants, and cute little local shops. There are plenty of nice bed and breakfasts that you can stay in while you’re there. The whole region is covered in great walking locations where you can see some of the best natural sights in the country. Visit www.gooutdoors.co.uk for some of the best walks in the area. You don’t need to travel halfway around the world to find the wonders of nature.

Next time you think that you can’t afford to travel, think again. You can go to any of these places and spend next to nothing and still have an amazing time.  

The Perfect Lady’s Night Out In Sydney

Sometimes, you just need a bit of time away with the girls. Away from work, family, couples, and all the other pressures of life. Instead of a night on the town, how about a night halfway across the world? Here, we’re going to look at the darling city of Australia that is Sydney and how it might well be the perfect place to get the girls together, let loose, and have some fun for once.

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The bright lights

As perhaps the most famous tourist destination in the whole country, it should be no surprise that Sydney is utterly packed with bars, clubs, restaurants, and other hangout spots. If you want a party, then you’re definitely going to have it here. If you want a magical experience, however, then perhaps you should save your trip for May, when the Vivid festival begins. This is the city’s biggest annual lights festival, and from Darling Harbour to Chinatown, the streets light up in an array of displays, many of them interactive, that can make it feel like you’re stuck in a dream world. The best holidays with friends are full of utterly unforgettable memories, and Vivid in Sydney is just that.

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Big shows

Sydney is the entertainment capital of the whole city, too. The most famous spot of all for a bit of live entertainment is naturally the Sydney Opera House. But if you don’t fancy a night of opera or musical theatre, then how about a pumping concert featuring the biggest stars in the world at the ANZ Stadium. Sites like The Ticket Merchant make it easy to find and book in advance, making sure that you actually get tickets for the days that you’re going to be in town. The city has a strong scene for live music, too, with bars like The Basement and Marble Bar almost always having something on. If you feel up for something a little more impromptu, then visit The Rock, the historic district where there is always some kind of pop-up art show or performance to enjoy.

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Sunset on the beach

When you think of Australia, your very first thought might be a beach holiday, and no-one can blame you that. Sydney does not fall short when it comes to the coastal calm. There are a lot of beaches by the city, with Bondi being no only hugely popular but full of cute cafes, chic shops, and boutique hotels. Bronte beach is a lot more popular with surfers, so if you want a little excitement and to try your hand at the waves, that’s where you go. If you want to lie back and relax with the girls, Nielsen Park is a little more laid-back. Still popular, but not quite packed with people.

Blissful beaches, the best live entertainment, and some of the most fantastic festivals and displays you’re going to see worldwide. Sydney has everything that a group of friends could want and much more. The next time you’re dragging your friends through the stages of planning a holiday together, why not suggest the Harbour City?

 

Can I Travel For Free? Tips For Low Budget Travel

Sometimes we all need to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and let our hair down, and for many of us, travel is the perfect way to do it. The only issue is that most of the time we simply cannot afford to go away and spend all of our money on flights and a hotel.

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There are ways to still enjoy travel even if you don’t have any money at all, and sometimes you can even travel for free if you look hard enough! Here are some of the ways you can make the most of travel on a budget…

  1. Work Overseas

If you don’t make enough money at your current job, why not take a season off and work in a different country? If there is a place you live to visit which has plenty of employment opportunities, you can make the most of working abroad whilst enjoying the lifestyle it brings. You could be a Tour guide, waiter, bartender, seasonal worker and loads more.

  1. Teach English Overseas

English is one of the most complicated languages for people to learn and is one of the most widely spoken in the world. Because of this, you could be making a great deal of money by teaching English to people overseas. The pay you receive would cover your accommodation, transport and likely leave you with money to spare too!

  1. Free Flights

Flights can be the most costly part of your travel depending on your destination, and you have probably thought about looking at signature loan rates in the past to cover the cost to allow you to go on holiday. However, there are plenty of ways you can earn free flights online, like signing up for a travel credit card and collecting air miles.

  1. Couchsurf

Hotels can be ridiculously overpriced depending on where you stay and what season you decide to travel. There are however some great ways which you can cut the cost of your accommodation online. There is a service called couchsurf which allows you to connect with people all over the world who are willing to let you stay with them for a time. You will sometimes get a spare room, maybe a space on the couch, or even an air bed. The beauty of this service is that it is completely free.

  1. Hitchhike

Hitchhiking might sound like a one-way ticket to being kidnapped, but it can actually be a really great way to get around for free. If you plan to explore your country, you can simply hitchhike different people along the way as you visit different areas.

  1. Walking Tours

Activities on holiday can often be expensive, and if you want to make the most of the area you are staying in it can become rather costly. However, many tourist cities offer free walking tours of the landscape where you can learn about the area, the history of the city and see some stunning landmarks without spending a penny.

Rome-an Away

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to visit Rome and I finally made it with a group of my closest friends. It wasn’t quite how I’d imagined it, but what is? I still had an amazing time and couldn’t wait to go back as part of my Italian Mediterranean cruise.

It was a trip I had been waiting a long while for DSCN0242and it couldn’t have come sooner. Although at first we were stuck between exploring history/heritage and basically just having a drink, I think we made the right choice choosing history/heritage and exploring Rome, until the soles of our shoes were worn!

Accommodation

DSCN0164Rome can be a pretty expensive place to stay although it doesn’t have to be, we stayed just outside the city in Aurelia at the Hostel Club campsite. The accommodation was a self-catered cabin (more like a caravan) and was perfect for us. The complex itself was not what I am used to due to the fact that we had to be quiet by 10:30pm or head to the on-site bar. We visited the bar one night and it was great, we had a fantastic time.

As the accommodation was self-catered we headed to the local supermarket, located just across the road for supplies. It was fun trying to cook for everyone, but some nights we gave ourselves time off and either went to the on-site restaurant, McDonald’s or stayed in Rome for an evening meal. For some reason the only pictures of food I took were of our not so notable meals, I keep these as a reminder of my poor cuisine choices, although we did enjoy some lovey meals at some very nice restaurants! This includes the pizza and soft drink for 8 EUROS, which I was overjoyed with.

Location

On a map, Aurelia looks quite far away from Rome but when you’re there it’s not too bad. We had to pay for a one-week transport pass for the metro, bus, and train. To get to Rome we took a bus to the local town, where we looked around the small market and in a few of the shops before heading to the metro that took us straight to Rome.

Exploring Rome

As you are probably aware, there’s a lot to see in Rome and with only a few days planned into our schedule to visit the city we didn’t want to waste a minute.

The first day was hot and walking seemed like a chore but we popped on our shoes and took to the Coliseum. Of course, this was the first stop, who would go to Rome and not visit this iconic structure? We were pleasantly surprised by the price, as members of the EU we got half price tickets for this attraction and Augustus forum.

The Coliseum is an amazing place to visit with every area having some form of notable story to tell, whether that’s the structures battle wounds or the reason it was constructed it has a long and interesting history. We then stopped at Circus Maximus before heading to the Altare della Patria.

Altare della Patria, was a place I had never heard of but the grand exterior drew me in. We took a lift to the roof and the view was breathtaking,  we couldn’t stay for long though as one of our friends is afraid of heights so we took a few snaps and off we went.

From here we took to the Trevi Fountain, which to my surprise was down a narrow cobbled street. For some reason, I had thought of this as being in a large square not hidden away. We made a wish, bought a few trinkets and went for some pizza.

This day seemed to last forever and the soles of my shoes were beginning to ware. We wondered for a long time trying to find Augustus Forum but did not make it (which was fine because I have since visited).

Our second day in Rome we visited St Paul’s Cathedral, Vatican. This area has a different feel to the more ancient area of Rome. Vatican City was very clean and had a fresh feel to it and the Cathedral was a busy place.

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There are so many places to visit in Rome and so much to see I am glad I have had the opportunity to return. Although I loved Rome, Paris is my favourite city so far, which surprised me because I always thought Rome would be.

Marrakech for Graduation

To celebrate our graduation my friend and I took to Marrakech on a relatively cheap holiday for one week. Although it is a lovely place it’s not for me and I probably wouldn’t visit again, but it was definitely worth the experience.

When choosing a place to visit for our graduation celebration we wanted to ensure there was ample opportunity for relaxation as well as sunshine. However, we are not big drinkers and we like to explore and experience something new, for these reasons we felt Marrakech was the best option, located in Morocco and home to plenty of cultural landmarks it seemed perfect.

We stayed at Hotel Aqua Fun because it was the most appealing with a nice budget to match. The hotel reception was authentic and we were welcomed with a smile. There was a man serving Morrocan tea and some traditional Morrocan food to sample. Once we had our keys and were fully refreshed we dropped our suitcases in our room, which was very nice and went for a nosey.

The pool area was large with about three pools outside the hotel and a waterpark to the left-hand side, at this point I thought it would be great for children. There was a restaurant area, small bar, and lovely view. We also met some friendly locals people, as the waterpark is open to the public.

After speaking to some of the locals for a few days they ended up meeting us in the city centre and showed us some of the sights. This was great, like having our own personal tour guides, though I am not sure how knowledgeable they really were about their local city it was interesting to get a locals point of view.

La Mamounia

La Mamounia

This palace-hotel was an amazing experience of the finest architecture, food, and drink. The gardens were amazing and the pool, with model-like people around it, was glorious. Obviously, we could not enjoy the amenities as we were not guests but our new found friend showed us around.

Camal Experience

Marrakesh camal

This was an excursion, organised by a local tour guide company, ran from a small ranch style home not too far from the hotel. This was the meeting point, we were shown around their lovely home and met some of their horses and camels.

As part of the excursion, we were told all about the gandoura and were shown how it should be worn. We were then offered traditional food and drink before we took a walk around a local town, which was very small and made me think about just how much we have.

Souks

What is a trip to Marrakech without a look around the Souks?

Marrakesh Souks

Selling all sorts of trinkets, spices and from what I remember lighting this was a lovely shopping trip. Although if you are claustrophobic perhaps don’t spend too much time there. The passages are small and snug but well worth the experience.

As we were staying at the hotel we did not need to purchase any spices but the selection of herbs and spices was an eye opener – I realise I don’t really explore with my food perhaps as much as I could.

When we were finished at the souks we headed to the square where we refreshments at a local cafe. In the day the square is just a large open space, but as the sun goes down it becomes very lively.

One evening we took a look around the square, ate some food, bought a few things and headed back to the hotel with our tour guide. This was an experience for me, but I felt a little anxious as there were so many people around.

Our local tour guide told us that during the hottest times and the early evenings those who live in the city will realx in the street as many of them can’t afford air conditioning and find the streets to be more cool and refreshing than their homes.

My brief trip to Marrakech was enjoyable, I saw some amazing things and met some lovely people.